What Are the Differences Between Powerlifting vs. Weightlifting?

Energy is energy. Fortuitously, there’s a lot extra to it than that. Human beings have competed in tests of strength since, basically, the daybreak of time. From crude rock-lifting competitions to the Olympic Video games, energy has been systematized, economized, and categorized. 

Two of probably the most outstanding disciplines on this planet of energy are powerlifting and weightlifting. You would possibly’ve heard of them earlier than; heck, you, like many others, have most likely confused them up to now. Hopefully, you’re focused on diving into one (or each) of them your self.

67-Kilogram Medalists at 2022 World Weightlifting Championships
Credit score: William Johnson / BarbellStories

However earlier than you select a strength sport to pursue, you should know the way powerlifting and weightlifting are alike and, particularly, how they differ. 

What Is Powerlifting?

Broadly talking, energy sports activities are outlined by the precise workouts athletes carry out in a competitive setting. Within the sport of powerlifting, athletes compete within the barbell again squat, bench press, and deadlift, in that order (extra on that later). 

The first goal of the powerlifter is to raise as a lot weight as attainable for a single repetition in all three actions. 

The Again Squat

The back squat is the primary aggressive occasion at virtually all powerlifting competitions — typically referred to as meets — and units the tone for the complete occasion. Squatting is an expression of bodily coordination and leg energy above all. 

Totally different powerlifting organizations have their very own distinctive rule units for the again squat. The common criterion that separates a legitimate competitors squat from an invalid raise is depth. For a raise to “depend” in a powerlifting meet, the athlete should sit down low sufficient such that the crease of their hip falls below their kneecap

The Bench Press

Powerlifters depend on the barbell bench press as a take a look at of their upper-body energy. In competitors, powerlifters bench in between their squat and deadlift as a method of giving their legs time to recuperate, because the squat and deadlift work lots of the similar muscle tissue.

The standards that validate a bench press in a aggressive setting can fluctuate wildly between totally different powerlifting federations. Nonetheless, virtually all powerlifting meets require the athlete to carry the barbell to a quick pause on their chest earlier than returning it to arm’s size.

The Deadlift

The third and last competitors motion in powerlifting is the deadlift. Whereas deadlifts are thought of a lower-body motion, heavy barbell deadlifts tax virtually each muscle within the physique to a point.

Person wearing a powerlifting singlet and lifting belt deadlifts a loaded barbell.
Credit score: sportpoint / Shutterstock

The standards for a powerlifting deadlift is easy; get up with the barbell in your arms. You possibly can carry out this in any method you would like, however virtually all powerlifters will decide to deadlift with both a conventional or sumo stance. Through the typical deadlift, powerlifters pull with their ft shut collectively. Sumo deadlifters place their ft out in a really huge stance

What Is Weightlifting?

If the squat, bench press, or deadlift aren’t your jam, you may be extra inclined to partake in the sport of weightlifting as a substitute. Regardless of its very broad title, weightlifting is a extremely particular energy sport that checks maximal energy in solely two actions. Weightlifting, in contrast to powerlifting (or some other resistance-training-based sport), can be a acknowledged Olympic self-discipline.

The Snatch

The game of weightlifting highlights flexibility, coordination, and explosive energy above all else. These qualities are, maybe, finest exemplified by the snatch

Through the snatch portion of a weightlifting competitors, athletes have three probabilities to vault a loaded barbell over their heads in a single swift movement whereas concurrently dropping right down to “catch” it in a low squat place. 

The snatch has a lengthy record of technical guidelines, however the major requirement of the raise is that the barbell doesn’t cease shifting as soon as the athlete lifts it off the ground. Weightlifters sometimes full their snatch makes an attempt within the span of only a few seconds. 

The Clear & Jerk

The clean & jerk shares lots of the similar qualities because the snatch. Weightlifters are tasked with lifting the barbell from the ground to overhead. Nonetheless, in distinction to the snatch, the clear & jerk permits for the athlete to pause with the barbell on their shoulders.

As such, weightlifters carry out the clear & jerk in two distinct phases. First, they pull the barbell off the ground and launch it onto their shoulders, catching it in a entrance squat place. That’s the clear. Then, they stand upright and push it from their shoulders to arm’s size overhead; the jerk. 

Weightlifter performs split jerk at world championships 2022
Credit score: William Johnson / BarbellStories

Most weightlifters carry out the clear in an analogous method, however you’ll typically see quite a lot of different technical approaches to the jerk. Some athletes will use the split jerk, dropping right into a tall lunge place to catch the bar overhead. 

Others want to do power jerks, wherein they catch the bar in a excessive squat place. In some instances, weightlifters will push the bar off their shoulders after which drop into an overhead squat to catch it, which is named a squat jerk

Variations Between Powerlifting and Weightlifting

You possibly can consider powerlifting and weightlifting as shut cousins. The pursuit of each sports activities is identical — raise as a lot weight as attainable as an expression of energy. The strategies and metrics by which every sport operates in service of that aim fluctuate tremendously.

Right here’s what separates powerlifting from weightlifting. 

Actions Examined

The game of powerlifting checks an athlete’s maximal energy via the efficiency of a single repetition within the barbell again squat, bench press, and deadlift. Weightlifters, then again, carry out the barbell snatch and clear & jerk in competitors. 

How They’re Comparable

Each sports activities enable the athlete three makes an attempt to lift the heaviest weight in every self-discipline. Powerlifters carry out 9 whole lifts on the platform; weightlifters have six probabilities. 

Each sports activities additionally measure the athletes by their “Complete,” which is the sum of their heaviest legitimate try in every self-discipline. The winner of every weight class (powerlifting and weightlifting every have their very own physique weight classes) is set by who has the very best cumulative Complete. Nonetheless, each sports activities award lift-specific medals as nicely. 

Athletic Qualities

The 2 sports activities have considerably mismatched names. Regardless of its namesake, powerlifting is much less about explosive force generation and extra about uncooked energy; how briskly you raise the burden isn’t essentially essential. 

Weightlifter Ritvars Suharevs prepares for hang snatch in training hall
Credit score: William Johnson / BarbellStories

For the weightlifter, explosiveness is integral, because the barbell should bodily fly via the air because the athlete strikes round and beneath it. This can be a widespread level of confusion for newcomers, as powerlifting is about lifting the burdenweightlifting requires you to raise powerfully

How They’re Comparable

Regardless of the clunky naming conventions, each powerlifters and weightlifters depend on related athletic qualities. Each athletes want an incredible reserve of energy of their legs and backs, in addition to a strong grip besides.

Powerlifters want strong arms to bench press, and the identical holds true for weightlifters who should droop their barbell overhead. Nonetheless, direct arm coaching isn’t significantly important to success in both sport. 

Coaching Type

The powerlifter and the weightlifter take vastly totally different approaches to their out-of-competition coaching, though each sports activities take a look at maximal energy. Powerlifting coaching is discrete and managed; athletes spend the vast majority of their time performing the squat, bench press, or deadlift, equally to how they’d raise in a aggressive setting. 

Weightlifting training is extra sturdy and different by comparability. Weightlifters will carry out heavy snatches or clear & jerks in shut proximity to an upcoming meet, however a lot of their out-of-competition coaching entails variations on the “traditional” lifts in addition to loads of supplemental workouts. 

Weightlifters additionally are inclined to do extra mobility-focused exercise, because the snatch and clear & jerk require distinctive flexibility within the ankles, hips, shoulders, and thoracic backbone. This isn’t to say that powerlifters are rigid — they simply don’t want as a lot mobility in as many locations always. 

How They’re Comparable

Regardless of competing in very totally different workouts, powerlifters and weightlifters take a broadly related method to training for strength. Each sports activities undertake the identical common philosophy: The nearer you might be to a contest, the extra your exercises ought to resemble what you’ll do in that competitors. 

For the powerlifter, this implies usually performing units of one to three repetitions within the squat, bench, and deadlift, carefully mimicking a aggressive setting. Weightlifters do the identical with loads of heavy “singles” (one rep) or “doubles” (two reps) within the snatch or clear & jerk.

A bodybuilder training alone in a hardcore dark gym doing bench press exercises.
Credit score: Kitreel / Shutterstock

If there aren’t any upcoming meets on the horizon, each powerlifters and weightlifters will use that point to include more diverse exercises, work on their strength-related or technical weaknesses, and prepare at decrease intensities. 

Competitors Construction

Powerlifting and weightlifting federations every take totally different approaches to how they construction their competitions. Previous to any lifting, every sport requires its athletes to “weigh in” and validate that they’re at a weight that aligns with their class. Weightlifting meets require rivals to weigh in precisely two hours prior to the graduation of the occasion, however powerlifting meets fluctuate on this regard. 

Aggressive Makes an attempt

Every sport lays out totally different guidelines relating to how its rivals set up their makes an attempt. Powerlifters are grouped into flights for every of the three lifts, primarily based upon their relative energy and the burden they need to raise. Flights be sure that powerlifters are given ample time to relaxation between their makes an attempt, making the sequence of lifts constant and predictable.

Person powdering their hands with chalk before attempting a lift with wrist wraps on
Credit score: sportpoint / Shutterstock

Weightlifting, then again, is extra unstable. Rivals declare their first weight in both the snatch or clear & jerk forward of time, however will select their subsequent weights relying on what their rivals try. These battles make the periods fluid, with loads of last-minute changes to the order wherein the rivals seem on stage. 

How They’re Comparable

Each sports activities undertake totally different parameters about how their rivals method try choice. That stated, each powerlifting and weightlifting comply with a “rising bar” philosophy. That means that, over the course of a aggressive session, the burden on the bar should improve. The strongest athletes in a given session seem on the finish, whereas these with much less energy begin issues off. 

Governance & Rules

Powerlifting and weightlifting differ in bureaucratic construction maybe greater than some other method. The game of weightlifting is completely centralized; all worldwide competitions are organized by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). This standardizes the foundations of the game on the world stage and plenty of particular person member federations (comparable to USA Weightlifting) decide to copy the IWF’s guidelines and insurance policies. 

Conversely, powerlifting is decentralized — even inside particular person nations. Whereas the Worldwide Powerlifting Federation (IPF) is thought to be the dominant governing physique for the game on the world stage, there are dozens of other federations that function profitable meets, every with its personal guidelines, laws, and even weight lessons. 

How They’re Comparable

Regardless of having vastly totally different approaches to group and coverage, each powerlifting and weightlifting decide to control their competitions in pursuit of equity. For instance, each sports activities restrict what assistive gear is permitted in competitors. 

A close-up of someone's hand on a barbell as they prepare to squat heavy.
Credit score: sportpoint / Shutterstock

Powerlifting employs totally different aggressive divisions primarily based round lifting gear — “raw” divisions are inclined to forbid something past a lifting belt and knee or wrist support. Weightlifting doesn’t make any equipment-based distinctions however does ban sure sorts of gear deemed too assistive. 

What You Must Know

Powerlifting and weightlifting are two distinct sports activities that share many qualities, however the satan is within the particulars. Right here’s a broad overview of the 2 sports activities:

  • Powerlifting is a strength sport that checks maximal energy within the barbell bench press, again squat, and deadlift. Athletes have three makes an attempt to raise the heaviest weight attainable in all three actions for a single repetition.
  • Weightlifting tests maximal strength in two actions: The snatch and the clear & jerk. Weightlifters additionally get three probabilities to raise the heaviest weight in every. 
  • Each sports activities rank rivals by Complete, which is the sum of an athlete’s finest end in all disciplines. Athletes obtain separate awards for his or her performances in every motion. 
  • Each sports activities organize their rivals by intercourse and weight class so athletes of comparable stature can compete pretty in opposition to one another. 

Powerlifting Weight Courses

Observe: Some powerlifting federations have totally different weight lessons. These are the IPF’s aggressive weight classes. 


  • 47 kilograms
  • 52 kilograms
  • 57 kilograms
  • 63 kilograms
  • 69 kilograms
  • 76 kilograms
  • 84 kilograms
  • 84+ kilograms


  • 59 kilograms
  • 66 kilograms
  • 74 kilograms
  • 83 kilograms
  • 93 kilograms
  • 105 kilograms
  • 120 kilograms
  • 120+ kilograms

Weightlifting Weight Courses

These are the IWF’s official weight lessons. Nationwide member federations comply with the IWF’s lead relating to aggressive physique weight classes.


  • 45 kilograms
  • 49 kilograms
  • 55 kilograms
  • 59 kilograms
  • 64 kilograms
  • 71 kilograms
  • 76 kilograms
  • 81 kilograms
  • 87 kilograms
  • 87+ kilograms


  • 55 kilograms
  • 61 kilograms
  • 67 kilograms
  • 73 kilograms
  • 81 kilograms
  • 89 kilograms
  • 96 kilograms
  • 102 kilograms
  • 109 kilograms
  • 109+ kilograms

What You Must Begin Powerlifting

Powerlifting is a improbable grab-and-go choice if you happen to’re focused on coaching for, and competing in, energy. You possibly can prepare like a powerlifter in most gyms, the actions themselves are comparatively simple, and the energy you develop will carry over to different areas of your life. 

In an effort to full a powerlifting program, you’ll want entry to:

These are the naked necessities, however many powerlifting packages embrace a number of various accent workouts. Resistance bands, cables, bumper plates, and even train machines will all improve your high quality of life as a powerlifter.

What You Must Begin Weightlifting

Regardless of being an Olympic sport, weightlifting is a comparatively area of interest pursuit, particularly on the hobbyist degree. To apply weightlifting, you actually solely want three gadgets. Nonetheless, many accessibility points revolve round discovering a place to train. Right here’s what you should have if you wish to begin weightlifting:

  • A gender-appropriate barbell. Males work with 20-kilogram bars, whereas girls use shorter and thinner 15-kilogram bars
  • An assortment of bumper plates. Weightlifters drop their barbell from overhead, so you have to make the most of rubberized plates
  • A pair of weightlifting shoes designed to enhance your efficiency within the snatch and clear & jerk.
  • A house health club or business facility with enough ceiling top to accommodate overhead lifting.

Many leisure weightlifters will apply their sport in CrossFit gyms, as CrossFit borrows closely from Olympic lifting for its workouts and thus carries all the important gear. Different free weights, cables, or machines are good to have, however solely see use for accent coaching.

Discover Your Energy

Powerlifting and weightlifting each have their locations. Every sport has its personal sect of devoted followers, however neither is superior to the opposite. They take a look at totally different actions in numerous circumstances below totally different rulesets. 

Loads of folks bounce backwards and forwards between the sports activities and for good purpose — powerlifting and weightlifting each have rather a lot to give you. They’ll make you stronger, in fact, however you’ll additionally study rather a lot about your self as a person. The barbell is the good equalizer. It’s all the time sincere with you. In that method, powerlifting and weightlifting are therapeutic and deeply fulfilling

Featured Picture: William Johnson / BarbellStories

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